Ryan Presents Romney Poverty Approach: Charity, Not Government

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October 24, 2012; Source: Washington Post

During the course of the recent presidential and vice presidential debates, NPQ has been very critical of both President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as well as their running mates, for their failure to discuss the condition of more than 46 million Americans living in poverty (which is defined as less than $23,000 a year in income for a family of four). Poverty grips 15 percent of Americans, including more than 20 percent of children under age 18, but the recent debates never tackled this subject. In a campaign appearance at Cleveland State University this week, however, Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.) did discuss poverty.

Ryan acknowledged, according to the Washington Post, that, “Republicans have not been good at conveying their compassion for the poor and explaining their plans to help the disadvantaged” but said that he and Romney wish to change that dynamic. So what would a government with Ryan in the VP role do to alleviate poverty? Ryan told the Ohio crowd that government anti-poverty work has fostered a “debilitating culture of dependency wrecking families and communities” and that “We’re still trying to measure compassion by how much government spends, not by how many people we help escape from poverty.” Instead of government programs, according to the Washington Post, Ryan suggested a “private charity-based strategy for fighting poverty.”

We would like to hear what NPQ readers think of this anti-poverty approach, as this raises a number of questions, just a few of which we’ll include here. First, if one accepts Ryan’s notion of a “culture of dependency” on government, would Ryan’s anti-poverty proposal reduce that dependency on government or merely transfer it to a culture of dependency on private charity? Practically speaking, in terms of capacity, who can better address poverty: government or private charity? And, perhaps philosophically speaking, who should address poverty? Are the answers to these last two questions one and the same? –Mike Keefe-Feldman

  • Maria

    An absurd and frightening approach to ending poverty.

  • Claire Ninde

    And who will fund these private charities? Their burdens would be significantly increased if the responsibility for those in poverty were shifted to them and away from government. This is an ignorant and simplistic approach. No surprise though, if you look at the source.

  • Laurie

    Many nonprofits in the human services arena are stretched to capacity with the current level of need already. With additional cuts to funding for the government programs the nonprofits use to help their clients, I’m not sure why Romney/Ryan think that charities can bear the strain. We’re barely keeping our heads above water with the current levels of SNAP/TEFAP/USDA/etc. When they cut SNAP – we’re going to have more people at food banks and these food banks are already running short of food meeting the need when food stamp dollars run out halfway through the month – what is going to happen when people lose their SNAP benefits entirely? I’ll tell you what – hungry families, hungry kids. Kids who can’t focus on schoolwork because their bellies are empty, kids and adults with additional medical problems from lack of nutrition. With many donations coming from the ‘middle class’ – do they think the additoinal taxes on the middle class will increase those donors capacity to give? Seeing what I see every day, I feel more and more disenchanted with the Christian Republicans – I feel they are out of touch with the people who are truly in need.

  • Enrique the Gay Philosopher

    I think Ryan’s suggestion is worth exploring if, at the same time that we shift these responsibilities to private charities, we also give them the power to levy taxes and millages to cover their increased costs. Here I’m borrowing an idea from my colleagues at the White Courtesy Telephone: http://postcards.typepad.com/white_telephone/2012/03/conservative-philanthropy-a-new-appreciation.html.

  • CALA

    I was reminded recently about the wording in the preamble to The Constitution of the United States of America.
    “We the People of the United States, In Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    It is a founding principle of the United States government — and the government is “we the people” — to promote the general welfare, take care of each other. This decision isn’t either / or (government or charity / community based organizatins)… it’s all together and collaborating for the general welfare which can only benefit all of us.

  • Chany Ockert

    Increasing the emphasis on private charity providing basic poverty services without continued government support will certainly lead to more suffering and failure. However, should there be an accompanying commitment to funding nonprofits through continued and increased government contracts, then local nonprofits could better serve their individual communities, including the poor and those in need, with the innovative approaches our sector is known for. Bureaucracy in many government programs can lead to the very people they are meant to serve falling through the cracks. How frustrating it can be to those sitting at the front desk of a government program turning someone away because of missing paperwork or being $1 over the income guidelines for eligibility. Because of our independent nature and common good focus, nonprofits – that receive the funding needed to support these additional services – can be more flexible to ensure no one falls through the cracks. We know our communities. We know our people. We know our neighbors. A challenge we have is to be forthright about the primary funding stream that many nonprofit rely on; that is, government contracts. Our donor development letters and campaigns rarely discuss this funding stream. Perhaps, we are afraid of losing individual donations. However, it is time for advocacy. It is time to be transparent with politicians, major donors and community influencers of our existing partnership with government through this funding stream.

  • Ken Steensma

    43 years ago the concern was expressed that when the money flows top-down to solve urban community ‘problems’, there would be the following results – not much left at the point of need, no involvement (and ownership) by those who need to direct their own improvement, rules for spending that don’t match the situation, and as a result…mullti-generational dependency. The question was asked: “How do we solve this?” The answer provided was: “Cut off the top-down money!” Given our current economic status, we have now succeeded.

    The answer has been with us for a long time – empower urban residents to direct their own self-sustaining improvement. The willingness to transform our public (and sometimes our private philanthropic) resource delivery systems to a ‘bottom-up’ support system has lagged behind. We are now at a point in time where we have to, whether or not we want to.

    The opportunity that is not yet being sufficiently addressed in the market is the expansion and integration of private sector social responsibility-urban social entrepreneurship investments that simultaneously empower urban residents to build self-sustainability and the private sector to generate measurable impact in both social responsibility and market outcomes.

    Maybe its time for building a national private sector social responsibility strategy in partnership with stewardship focused, committed urban resident entrepreneurs???

  • Ellen

    Let’s be honest. Many poor people are working in low-wage jobs, and we need people to work in those jobs, whether it is picking fruit or emptying bedpans or working in McDonald’s. Manufacturers and other employers want to pay employees less so that we can compete with countries like China that pay their workers next to nothing. Among the federal budget’s most expensive programs for poor people are Medicaid, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Thes programs help subsidize low wage employees so that their families have a decent standard of living.

    While there are undoubtedly problems with the federal programs, the rules are clear with “entitlement programs.” If you meet the eligibility requirements, you get to participate in the program. Private charities can pick and choose their clients ad their areas of interest. Should poor people have to beg for help?

    Much of the money that goes to charity goes to universities, museums, scientific research, and animals. Many private foundations want to fund new projects, not basic services.

    Don’t be decieved. Ryan’s plan is not for government to fund private charities (which it does already), but to have private charities depend private fundraising.

  • Allen Franke

    I love this, I am searching for some volunteer doers to put together a free enterprise effort to fund non-profits and I come up with this website. This looks more like a Democrat PAC :(. From my view you are aiding unemployable students to “get employed” via a phony precept of “serving” the unending line of the unfortunate with someone elses money. (i.e. evil corporations) All this under the guise of doing good. This phony concept of making the ignorant “feel good” by “helping them” is sad, boys and girls. All this from a group that is concerned about the Church preaching honesty in politics to people that have jobs..

    I love this stuff.

    P.S. You probably have some good people in the org. that I could work with.
    Allen Franke

    P.S. P.S. What is it exactly that you are selling if not the ideology?

  • Allen Franke

    LBNP and the poor are all on the dole along with the public emplyeees union and the thing just keeps going with no hope of a turn. Thanks for the encouragement Enrique. The problem is, LBNP in aiding the problem by encouraging the recipients to control the vote for the train to ruin. Note: the Church is working to help with many of these problems and this group of “anti church people” is more concerned about the their political competition than a partnership in solvling the problem.

    Thanks Enrique
    Allen the Straight Tea Party Guy xD

    P.S. I’m really intererested in the LBNP “theoretical goals”, shame huh? They probably have some good talent.

  • Allen Franke

    LBNP and the poor are all on the dole along with the public emplyeees union and the thing just keeps going with no hope of a turn. Thanks for the encouragement Enrique. The problem is, LBNP in aiding the problem by encouraging the recipients to control the vote for the train to ruin. Note: the Church is working to help with many of these problems and this group of “anti church people” is more concerned about the their political competition than a partnership in solvling the problem.

    Thanks Enrique
    Allen the Straight Tea Party Guy xD

    P.S. I’m really intererested in the LBNP “theoretical goals”, shame huh? They probably have some good talent.

  • Don

    For each complex problem, there is a simple solution.

    And that solution is both ineffective, and wrong!

  • Brad Harvey

    It is not a government’s responsibility to pull it’s people out of poverty by paying them stipends to get their income above poverty level, i.e. nothing more than rewarding them for being poor. And where does the government get its money to pay people who are under the poverty line? From those who are the largest earners, who are usually the largest risk takers, the largest producers, the most creative thinkers and the largest investors. In short, the government is penalizing the most productive sector of society in order to reward the least productive sector of society.
    One needs to look at the reasons for poverty: medical or mental disability? Refusal to work? Refusal to study and retool for a job in a growing sector if your old job has become obsolete or has been passed on to a third world country where people with a 6th grade education can do your old job? There is a growing dependency, a “welfare mentality” and third and fourth generation welfare recipients. Welfare should never be one’s goal, nor one’s inheritance, nor one’s expectation.
    In addition, almost every state-run endeavor is top heavy and inefficient, so of course private sector and especially benevolent organizations are better suited to looking into and alleviating the problems relating to and causing poverty. Their donors expect results, and their continuing donations are based on success.
    It is a government’s responsibility to provide an environment where people who are willing to work, create, invest, risk and hire others are rewarded (rather than penalized). They do this by lowering taxes so that more people can be hired, prices can stabilize, and the economy can be stimulated.
    Ryan’s solution is not a way to win votes from the poor masses, rather it is a way forward and a way out of poverty for the poor masses. If those living in poverty are truly looking for a way to work themselves out of poverty, then they should vote for Romney and Ryan. If, however, they are looking for a way to profit from their position of poverty by doing nothing for themselves but rather depending on the government for constant, guaranteed and ever-growing handouts (as if these handouts are their “rights”), then they will probably vote for Obama. That is what Obama is hoping for, anyway.

  • Don Anderson

    Anyone who pays taxes already addresses poverty in some way. If my tax dollars are used I don’t have to experience, first hand, the issues being faced by others. No real need to get involved. That doesn’t say much for really supporting the needs of our fellow citizens on a human level. When done locally or one on one, charity, either from me to you or from a community to a recognized need, provides the opportunitiy to understand our neighbors and grow in personal character and interdependence.